There are lots of things people quit. “I quit smoking,” “I quit eating fast food,” or “I quit dating that loser with the Zia tattoo.” Yet, there’s one phrase I’d never heard before I picked up Mark Sundeen’s new book and heard Daniel Suelo’s proclamation: “I quit money.”
Take a moment to let that sink in: I quit money. In 2000, Daniel Suelo left his life savings—thirty dollars—in a telephone booth and walked away. It could be the most liberating pronouncement ever made—no mortgage, car payment, cable bill, credit card bill, or taxes. On the other hand, there’s the “What if?” scenario that keeps me happy that I have health insurance.
Throughout his book, Sundeen wrestles with what Daniel Suelo has come to terms with: Suelo doesn’t use money, tries not to barter, refuses welfare, homeless shelters or food banks. He dumpster dives (40 percent of all food produced in the US ends up in landfills) and scavenges for food in the desert. But by all appearances, he’s happy. After following Suelo around, asking thousands of questions to friends and family, detailing how Suelo came to call a cave his home, Sundeen gives us a modern-day example of John the Baptist, Thoreau, or maybe an American sadhu–if there were such a thing.
Combining the extensive character sketch of Into the Wild and the green initiative of No Impact Man, Sundeen’s book asks its reader plenty of questions focusing on excess, sustainability, and spirituality. Suelo’s resolution to avoid money comes from deep roots in Christianity, his faith stemming from scripture. Mathew 6:26 seems to most reflect Suelo’s desire to quit using money, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
Ultimately, you can’t read The Man Who Quit Money without taking stock of your own life, the possessions and debts, the decisions and rationalizations. Sundeen and Suelo don’t expect anyone to sell his/her belongings and move to the nearest cave, but what material goods could you do without? How could you live your faith more completely? How could you create less impact on the earth?
What would you quit to make yourself happier?